Covert Action features a series of crimes being committed by nefarious evildoers. A Mission describes the sum of Max Remington's involvement in stopping a single crime, or "Criminal Plot", from being perpetrated.
Each Mission is almost a stand-alone experience, comprising a single "play-through" of the game, and can usually be completed within at most a few hours. While missions are somewhat connected to one another, they are still regarded as being separate entities in many ways.
Each Mission begins with a Briefing by the CIA Chief revealing assumptions about the upcoming Criminal Plot that's going to be attempted by the enemy. This is followed by Max receiving a number of clues collected by various CIA assets which may help Max begin his investigation. After that, the bulk of the mission involves Max's attempt to foil the Criminal Plot by whatever means necessary, including if possible the arrest of all enemy Participants, the Confiscation of Items, and the prevention of the Primary Crime(s). Finally, the mission is concluded with an After Action Report from the CIA Chief, followed by Max's Score for the mission, a summation on Max's progress in the game so far, a possible Promotion, and the chance to change the current Difficulty settings. After that, the next Mission begins.
A Mission is a self-contained portion of the game, which is the largest such portion that can be described as self-contained. When playing Covert Action, it is common to play one mission per sitting, and there is little connecting each mission to the next (thus, little forcing the player to retain knowledge of previous missions).
Each "Mission" in the game can be described as a rigid progress of events, starting with Max accepting the Mission from the CIA Chief, and ending with a summary of Max's achievements during the entire Mission.
General Mission ProgressEdit
This section describes the order in which events occur from the moment the Player enters a new Mission to the points of its conclusion. This outline is expanded in detail in the following sections of this article.
- 1. Mission Briefing
- Max arrives at the CIA Office for a Briefing with the CIA Chief. The Chief reveals the CIA's concerns about a developing situation, where an enemy Organization is suspected of planning to commit some major crime. This is basically an exposition, and reveals little information about coming events, but may clue the player to the type of Criminal Plot he is about to encounter.
- 2. Initial Information
- An entire day (24 hours) pass as the CIA attempts to collect as much information as possible regarding people suspected of being involved in the unfolding Criminal Plot. This information is presented to Max at the end of this day. The information is typically either in the form of Clues or (on lower Difficulty settings) hard Evidence about one or more Participants. This information will help Max begin his investigation.
- 3. Investigation
- This is the "Bulk" section of the Mission, and is regarded as the Game itself. In this portion, Max follows Clues and other leads to discover the location of the various Participants in the Criminal Plot, their involvement in the Plot, and of course the nature of the Plot itself. Max then attempts to Arrest or Turn these enemy agents before they can complete their nefarious plans or disappear into hiding. Items involved in the Plot are Confiscated if possible, and Max must also keep an eye out for Double Agents operating from within the CIA. This portion concludes when all enemy agents have been Arrested, Turned, or have gone into hiding.
- 4.After Action Report
- Max returns to the CIA Office to receive his De-Briefing from the CIA Chief. He is shown an After Action Report, which details the progress of the enemy's Plot. This includes all Events that occured during the Mission, including those involving the Participants as well as actions carried out by Max throughout the Mission. It also reveals the names and locations of each Participant, the movement of Items between the participants, and all other such information.
- 5. Scoring
- Max is shown a summary of the points he earned (or failed to earn) for completing goals during the mission. It shows the amount of points gained for gathering information about Participants, Arresting Participants, Turning Participants, Confiscating Items, and preventing the perpetration of Major Crimes. It also shows points lost for failure to expose Double Agents within the CIA. This is followed by a graphical representation of the score, as Max takes a weekend off to visit a location corresponding to his achievement, such as a Laundromat, Office, Beach or Casino.
- 6. Weekend Cutscene
- After a short summation by the CIA Chief, Max goes off to spend his weekend somewhere to relax. The location chosen for his/her vacation is based on the mission score. Low scores can send max to the Laundromat, while high scores might send him to the Casino. Also, Max will meet one or more women (or men, if Max is a she!) whose appearance also matches the score - an old woman for a particularly low score, or a stunning temptress for a particularly high score.
- 7. Career Recap
- Max is then shown his accomplishments throughout his career so far. A Hall of Fame screen compares Max directly to other careers played previously, based on total score. This is followed by a Chronology of all previous Missions played during this career, listing the Criminal Plot featured in each past Mission, whether the Plot was foiled, each mission's score, and so forth. This is followed by a list of all Masterminds arrested by Max so far in his career.
- 8. Promotion
- 9. Post-Mission Menu
- A Menu pops up allowing the player to save his progress, continue to the next mission, quit the game, or change the current Difficulty setting for this career.
Most Briefings do nothing more than describe current events. For instance, the CIA Chief may describe suspicious activity near an Airforce Base, or concerns regarding the upcoming Freedom Games, and so on. This is meant to give Max a general idea of what kind of Criminal Plot the enemy may be trying to hatch.
If this Mission is the first in a Mission Set, experienced players can identify the intro as belonging to a specific Set, and thus have a good idea which Plot is being attempted. If you know which Set is being played, you can usually figure out not just which plot is about to unfold, but possibly also which plots will unfold in the next one or two missions.
Other than this, Briefings do not contain any truly helpful information.
Once the CIA Chief's Briefing is over, the CIA spends 24 hours of game-time collecting data from various sources to give Max some leads to start his investigation. The game clock is shown as running straight from the 1st of the month at 12:00 AM to the 2nd at 12:00 AM. During this time, Max cannot do anything.
Once those 24 hours have passed, all collected information is passed to Max, to review before the mission starts. It is usually made up of at least two Clue pieces, and may include some hard Evidence against one or more Participants. This can give Max a general idea of the places where he's more likely to find further information, once the investigation itself begins.
Note that on the highest Difficulty setting (Global Crisis), it is highly unlikely to get anything more than two Clue pieces. On lower difficulty settings you can get much more than this, including (as mentioned above) Hard Evidence and/or detected message reports.
This section is the meat and bones of the game. This is where the game itself is played, with Max traveling between Cities, collecting more information, and eventually working to thwart the Plot. This involves the Arrest of Participants, Confiscation of Items, and usually many, many Mini-Games.
The Investigation is concluded once all Participants in the plot simultaneously fit either of the following conditions:
- The Participant is Arrested or In Hiding.
- The Participant is Turned, and his next task involves committing a Major Crime.
The investigation stage can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours, depending on the player's skill as well as the current Difficulty setting.
After Action ReportEdit
- Main article: After Action Report
This is done on a screen showing all Participants in the plot, with their Roles shown above their photograph. You will see, one by one, each Event that occured since the mission started, including Message Traffic, Meetings and Crimes committed. The After Action Report also reveals the transcript of messages or meetings, and shows the acquisition and transfer of Items between the various participants.
All events are shown in the same order as they occured during the mission, and are conveniently marked with the date on which they occured.
Note that you can skip the entire After Action Report by pressing "ESC" at any time.
- Main article: Scoring
After viewing the entire After Action Report, you are treated to a list of points won or lost during the mission.
The last bit of information here shows how many points were "lost" for failing to expose Double Agents within the CIA.
The game then calculates a total score for this mission based on points earned versus the Maximum possible number of points that could've been earned for this particular mission. This is displayed prominently at the end of the Score Report screen.
After a short summation by the CIA Chief, Max is shown a cutscene appropriate to the score he achieved during the mission. In this cutscene, Max takes a weekend off to relax, and will visit a certain location that reflects his score, meeting a woman (or a few women, or men if Max is a she!)
- Main article: Weekend Cutscene
Max's exploits during this weekend are shown as a visual representation of his score. The location he visits during the weekend will directly reflect his score: A Laundromat for a low score, the CIA Office for a below-average score, a Beach for an above-average score, and a Casino for a high score.
Also, Max will meet one or more women (or men, if Max is a she!) during this weekend. The beauty of the Woman/Man directly reflects Max's score as well: An ugly old woman at the Laundromat means an abysmally low score, while four stunning ladies at the casino signify achieving maximum score (or higher!).
There is no lasting significance to this cutscene - it is simply eyecandy given as reward (or punishment) based on Max's performance.
Career RecapEditAfter dismissing the Scoring screen, the "Hall of Fame" screen comes up. This compares Max's overall performance so far during his entire career to other "Max" characters you've played in the past.
Dismissing that, you'll be shown a list of all Missions you've played with the current Max character so far during this career. Each entry on the list shows the details of one mission:
- Which Criminal Plot was attempted by the enemy during that Mission.
- Whether Max was successful at thwarting the Plot.
- How many Participants were arrested during the Mission.
- The total score for that Mission.
- Whether or not a Mastermind was arrested during the Mission.
This list can be several pages long.
PromotionEditIf Max has gained a sufficient number of points during the now-ended mission, he may receive a Promotion from the CIA Chief.
Promotions have no real value or effect in the game. They are simply a way to indicate how many points max has accumulated so far. Promotions go from 099 (lowest level) to 001 (highest level). It is impossible to go above 001, even if you make terrific successes in future missions.
Post-Mission MenuEditAfter all the above has been done, the mission ends with a small menu popping up on the screen.
In this menu, Max can Save his progress to a file, Quit the game, or continue immediately to the next mission. If Max has managed to thwart the Plot during the mission that just ended, the player gets the chance to change the current Difficulty setting.
Saving the game here allows you to quit the game and reload it later, continuing immediately to the next mission.
Changing the Difficulty Setting allows you to make the game harder or easier for subsequent missions. You may choose any new Difficulty setting at this stage, based on how you felt about the difficulty during the mission.
If you choose to Continue to the next mission, it will start immediately (jump to step 1).